Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fits And Starts

I was going to get all my chores done quickly today and then spend the rest of the afternoon and evening changing the colors and images here on the blog with a clear, guilt-free conscience but, oh no, that was not to be!

Today was one of those days when I embarked on many endeavors and, while I accomplished a lot during each, completed virtually none of them. Unless you count laundry-and-dinner. Which I don't because I have to do it every day. It's a given and I give myself no credit for it. I'm even using them as a singular compound noun. Hence the hyphens.

First my bath was interrupted by Redheaded Snippet's persistent ringing of the telephone, demanding to be picked up from practice. I had been assured it would be over much later and thought I had plenty of time for said bath. How wrong I was. Another day of wearing my hair up in a knot skewered with a pen.

Second, my trek down to the basement for the few spring-themed decorative items I own was interrupted by a near-scalping incident cause by a close encounter between aforementioned top-knot-cum-pen and a jagged piece of trim The Viking had stored in the rafters. The ceiling is very low. And that hurt like heck and no one could hear me yelling as I tried to free my hair from its wooden prison!

Third, my completion of the laundry was interrupted by the arrival and subsequent loitering of my father. I do not mind when Dad drops by and he does not do it often, but today, it was just another interruption in an already frustrating day and all he did was complain about EGOD. But I feel I am being uncharitable...

Fourth, my cleaning blitz of the kitchen was interrupted by this discovery:

Apparently, last night The Viking had been seized by the sudden urge to make cookies. And then he needed a place to store them. And this was his solution. His defense was that we are out of zip top bags. He has no idea why he put them in the fridge.

So while I did manage to make my bed, tidy my bedroom, wash the dishes (by hand; the dishwasher is on the fritz AGAIN), make dinner, do four loads of laundry and make the kids clean the stairs and their rooms to the teeth, I did not deep-clean the kitchen, clean out the pantry, set out the springtime decor, wash my hair or get to the ironing. So I'm not sure what to make of this day...success or failure? It guess it's just a mixed bag.

And I've got to get up at 5:30 tomorrow morning and drive Redheaded Snippet 90 minutes to a field hockey training session and then sit there in the car in the parking lot for six hours before driving 90 minutes back home. So we know I'm getting nothing accomplished tomorrow except learning how to nap in the front seat of my car!

Oh to bed...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Sometimes when it's like this outside:

You need some of this inside:

I finally had enough of myself and washed the dishes, made scones and a pot of tea and we had Math and then Grammar class on the living room love seat and comfy chair instead of upstairs at our desks. It didn't actually help today's schooling go any smoother (instead he seemed even worse), but my state of mind was better.

One day, one step at a time...maybe tomorrow we'll spend the day at the library...


That's what I am today. We overslept (even The Viking) and came downstairs to find the dog had thrown up in a corner of the only room in the house that is still carpeted. Grrrrrr...

It is dreary out; glumly gray and gloomy. The snow that the northern part of the state is getting would be preferable to this, yes, even on this spring day.

I am behind on chores and laundry--when am I not?--and once I'm finished here (IF I finish) I am going to Mom's tonight to clean her apartment. I'm glad to be able to do that for her, but I can't say I look forward to it.

EGOD has been calling The Viking all morning at work and he has asked me to call her and see what she wants. Ugh. She only ever calls us when she's mad at my father and wants to shriek that she doesn't know if he may have dropped dead. I really don't know if I can take her vitriol today.

We haven't even started school. And don't get me started on school. Lately, it's just been one more thing for which I can beat myself up. All my grand plans have fallen flat. We're barely getting through our curricula, there have been no field trips, there have been no great projects and we are sick of each other. I have the very great fear that we are going to have absolutely nothing to show for this year when it is over. He wants to go back to the public school in September and I just don't know what to do.

I forgot to give Redheaded Snippet lunch money today so now she has eaten nothing all day.

I'm supposed to be braising or otherwise cooking a corned beef brisket I got last week when I took advantage of the St. Patrick's Day sales. I'm not entirely sure what to do with it so I'm putting it off. But I have to get it started soon or dinner will also be late today...

And because everything has gotten out of whack today, I had to cancel my weekly visit with my dear friend, the only other full-time stay-at-home-mom I know. We usually get school out of the way in the morning so we can visit in the afternoon, but not when we oversleep and have to clean vomit out of the carpet and cook brisket (not necessarily in that order)!

It's not been a very good day, so far, and I am probably making it worse by sitting here whining through my keyboard and not accomplishing everything on which I am behind. But there it is. Can a crankypants be productive? I propose that she cannot.

And yet she must. We must eat and be cleanly and try, just try, to learn something...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring has sprung

I know I probably use that title each and every year but I just cannot help it. It must be said.

First daffodil of the year.  Man-Cub brought it in to me yesterday.  I love that he's 10 and still has to bring me the first daffodil, the first lilac and the first hydrangea from our garden each year.  And I especially love his specially chosen and carefully prepared vase.  He is very proud of it.

I've been in denial for several weeks now, hoping for one last late-winter snowfall, but, alas, it was not to be. And spring is now here to stay. It all began, as it always does, with Nutmeg's coat blow. She started fluffing out around the second week of February and I thought, "Well here goes the second-worst 6-week period of the year..." In case you're interested, the worst 6-week period of the year is mid July to the end of August. But mid February to early April is right behind it. The hair, THE HAIR! It's simply MADNESS! I could follow her around with the broom ALL DAY LONG and it still would not help. I would share a photo I would not. That is disgusting.

Shortly after the fur frenzy, the frog frenzy began.  Which reminds me, this period can't be all that bad because it's one of the few during which we sleep with our windows open every night.  The tree frogs in the woods across the sleep sing us to sleep with their orgiastic songs.  It's always one of the highlights of our year.

Once the frogs' chorus began, we knew it wouldn't be long before warm breezes and bright sunshine came our way.  The woolens were shed, the short sleeves came out, the clothes line was squealed back into use and the windows were thrown open, hastily reclosed, thrown open again and hastily reclosed once more.  The Viking and I have a bit of a window war in the early spring.  I am always opening and he is always closing.

Yesterday was the first day that truly felt like spring.  The windows were left open (ha-HA!) and the menfolk spent the vast majority of the day outdoors.  The Viking played chimney sweep, cleaning the woodstove and chimney and getting thoroughly blackened in the process.  I had to repeatedly resist the urge to stick my head out the window and sing, "Chim-Chim-Cher-ee" at him.  But I sang it to him when he walked in the door, nearly unrecognizable.  While he was getting good and dirty, Man-Cub cleared the yard of sticks, toys, rubbish and anything else that doesn't belong out there.  I did my part by dismantling the bed, washing its disassembled parts and hanging anything that could be hung out on the line.  And then I had to do my grocery shopping which is a harrowing tale that just does not bear retelling.  Redheaded Snippet had had a sadistic 8 AM track practice--yes, we're in another athletic season--and was napping and nursing her sore muscles.  She did fold several loads of laundry for me though, a task she could easily manage while camped out on the couch.

One more thing before I go; I'd like to record another dinnertime adventure so I don't forget it.  We had (marinated and grilled) chicken last night that Man-Cub, for some reason ('cause it was GOOD), decided he did not like.  And in order to shift attention away from the fact that he wasn't eating it, he decided to pick on his sister and try to make us laugh in the process.  And it almost worked.  At some point, he began acting like he couldn't tell the difference between his chicken and his sister.  The Viking would ask him something like, "Why haven't you eaten all of your chicken?" and Man-Cub would answer, in all seriousness, "Well, it's clear across the table from me.  Why on earth would Mom put it there if I'm supposed to eat it?"  And Redheaded Snippet would glare at him and The Viking and I would stare at each other across the table, silently forbidding each other to laugh.  This went on for a while, with several variations such as, "I don't know, Dad, it looks awfully stringy and tough" (while pointing at his sister), or "Hey!  Stop talking and get on my plate!" (also at his sister).

Finally, Redheaded Snippet yelled at him, exasperated, "I am NOT your CHICKEN" and The Viking and I finally cracked.  Mission accomplished.  Almost.  The Viking is very good at being on duty during dinnertime, which is a good thing because by then I am just too worn out to do anything but pass the salt.  And he did not let Man-Cub wiggle out of eating his dinner, cleverly witty or not.  But Man-Cub did manage to get one last shot in, after The Viking said, upon rising from his seat, "This is the last time I am telling you.  Eat.  Your. Chicken."  Man-Cub pointed once more at Redheaded Snippet glaring at him across the table and said with a totally straight face, "But I haven't baked her yet."  Then he looked right at her and said with a sigh, "Alright, get into the oven and set yourself at 350..."

When he was born, we used to speculate about what life would be like ten years into the future.  We'd say, "Can you imagine how crazy he's going to drive his sister when he's about ten and she's about fifteen?"  And here we are...and it's every bit as exasperating but funny as we thought it would be!

Happy Spring!  Get your windows open!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

DIY Bash

Ok, I know I have some unfinished business to tend to, but it''s just taking me a really long time to finish. I have no other explanation than that. It's very personal, introspective stuff and I am kind of agonizing over it as is my wont. So, I'm sorry, but it's just going to have to wait.

In the meantime, can I tell you about Man-Cub's birthday party and how I was actually a good mother for about a weekend? Of course I can, I have the keyboard!

So, we decided to let Man-Cub have kind of a bash because he turned the big 1-0. Let me clarify: when I say "kind of a bash" I mean a Wits' End kind of bash, not a Hollywood or even a South Jersey kind of bash. A bash to us means more than four kids, goody bags and streamers. I bet they probably throw bigger and better bashes in prison, but the point is to Man-Cub it was a BASH!

The Viking and I worked as a team to plan the whole thing and it must be said that we would not have been able to pull it off without Mom and Daria pitching in. The Viking secured the use of our church's gym, kitchen, and sound equipment. He borrowed a smoke machine and disco ball from somewhere. He advised Man-Cub to invite about 9 friends and tell them all to bring their Nerf guns and plenty of ammo. He then bought a few rubber chickens and a mess of glow-in-the-dark stuff. Intrigued? You should be.

I bought the party supplies: tablecloth, napkins, plates, forks, cups, streamers, candles. We were going to order one of those party packs from one of those well-known online party suppliers, but then I realized I could do a much better and cheaper job myself so I put in a little extra legwork and time and MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

I also provided the food. Man-Cub is easy to please when it comes to party foods so Pringles and Sprite were all I had to buy. I decided to make the cake myself. He wanted cookie cake again (which seems to be the "cake" of choice amongst elementary-school-aged boys) and though I had made one last year with mixed results, I decided to learn from my mistakes and try again. And, boy, was I glad I did!

I DO NOT HAVE PHOTOS! I know, it's so very boring have to read only words all the time with no photos for variety, but we have no camera. Redheaded Snippet keeps losing them. Yes, let's blame her, it's easier. Anyway, I am suffering, too, as I've noticed not being able to share photos (except for those of dubious quality) has greatly reduced my enthusiasm for blogging altogether We're all hurting, people.

But the cake! The photoless cake! It was SO GOOD! I used Emeril's recipe and it looked and tasted perfect! I've never liked cookie cakes because they've always tasted...just...weird. But tasting a homemade one made me realize that it's just the processed, store-bought ones that taste that way. Homemade cookie cakes taste pretty good!

However good the cookie cake is, however, it does not satisfy most grown-ups' tastes for birthday cake. My family members can't help but groan when they find out we've let one of our kids have a cookie cake or ice cream cake for their birthday party (that's another one that young 'uns seem to always want: ice cream cake). And this time, I knew one cookie cake would not be enough for the entire party so I decided to make another cake just for the grown-ups.

I had seen a cake on my favorite blog that looked so good that I actually remembered it (and where I'd seen it) when the time came for me to bake one. There was no recipe. But I figured it out! I never feel more triumphant than when I do that successfully! And this was successful!

It was a four-layer yellow cake with lemon curd and whipped cream filling and whipped cream frosting.

I am not the best baker in the world, just so we are clear. I can bake things that will taste pretty darn good, but, lacking the artistic skills that God chose to bestow on all three of my sisters but not on me, very little of what I bake looks very pretty. I told Daria I would be a great baker for the blind.  I should start a cooking blog called, Ugly But Tasty. I would ROCK that! And this cake was no exception.

I used a recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I think it's called All-Purpose Buttery Yellow Cake. I bought a jar of lemon curd (in retrospect I probably should have bought two). I baked two 8-inch rounds, let them cool, then carefully cut them in half so I had four layers instead of just two. Between the bottom two layers I spread lemon curd. Then I whipped up some cream and spread some between the second and third layers. Then more lemon curd between the top two. Then I coated the whole thing in whipped cream. That's the part I can't seem to do neatly. I would show you photos, just so you can see the ugliness (and maybe even impart some wisdom to me on how to neaten things up), but I DON'T HAVE ANY, REMEMBER?

You know a cake is good when someone asks you, "You made this cake?" And you know it's really good when, after you've said that you did, they immediately ask, "From scratch?"  And you know it was really really good when that person is your mother!  It was a HIT! The lemon and whipped cream were lovely together. The cake was moist but perfectly dense. It reminded us of wedding cake. It was probably my favorite of all the cakes I've baked. I will definitely be making it again. And I WILL, as God is my witness, get photos!

So, the food was a hit (the boys loved the cookie cake), but I'm sure you're curious about all the supplies The Viking bought in the beginning of this post...

He and Man-Cub invented a game for the boys to play.  I think they called it Capture the Chicken.  Think Capture the Flag only in a church gym with the lights dimmed and a smoke machine and a disco ball and tables set up as obstacles and barriers and glow-in-the-dark rings and flashers and Nerf guns and lots and lots of Nerf ammo.  LOTS of Nerf ammo.  Oh yes, and rubber chickens.  The Viking made a soundtrack of Man-Cub's favorite music (he's got quite eclectic tastes, I must say) and blasted it and those boys ran all over the place jumping and shooting and laughing and shouting and, for some reason and according to the rules, clucking loudly from time to time.

Blessedly, they were in a separate room from where I was preparing the feast.  In fact, for the first time, I made birthday preparations in near-total peace.  At least until EGOD arrived.  That woman...I swear...she is just misery personified.  She arrived in a snit, complained loudly to anyone she could corner and even grumbled loudly that she shouldn't have been there.  She did not like that a) we have chosen to attend a church that is so far away from her home and b) we chose it as the location for Man-Cub's party.  I'm telling you, I need extra measures of supernatural love and patience whenever she is around.  I suppose that's why God has her in my life, to teach me to rely on him in order to love her...

It was delightful to see Man-Cub acting like a silly, rambunctious yet well-behaved little boy with his friends.  And we were encouraged to realize that most of them are from church and all of them are good boys.  We have always prayed specifically for good friends for both of our children and have been grateful to see God answer those prayers for Redheaded Snippet in the way we had hoped for.  And now we're starting to see the same answer in Man-Cub's friends as well.

Of course, once the evening was over we were exhausted with aching feet, heads and backs.  But it was worth it to see Man-Cub having the time of his life and knowing we didn't have to spend a small fortune to do it!

Now if only we can get Redheaded Snippet excited about having her Sweet Sixteen party in the church gym...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sophomore Cotillion or making do with what you have and impressing the socks off everyone in the process

Do you know what a cotillion is? I don't even know if it's supposed to be capitalized, but I do know it is a kind of a dance. Strictly speaking, it's a particular kind of elaborate dance for couples, resembling the quadrille (oh, that's clear as mud). But it also can refer to a ballroom dance.

Mom putting the finishing touches on the hair

Redheaded Snippet's high school has hosted a Sophomore Cotillion for years. And I do mean years because they were doing it well before I was student there and we all know that was ages, eons, ago!

And she got a date how?

Redheaded Snippet loves her a good dance and hasn't had one for two years (we squeaked through last year without having one) so she's literally been counting down the days for at least three months.

Now, this is the dress Redheaded Snippet said she wanted to wear.

So I suggested this one instead.

Getting ready to get jiggy with my makeup brushes

And so we compromised.  Did you notice that first dress up there?  You'll see it again in a few minutes, don't worry.  Anyway, it was my grandmother's.  She had it made for her in the early 1940's.  It seemed to me that Redheaded Snippet was about the right size to fit into it so we hauled it down from Mom's attic to see what we could see...

There's Mom on the left, ironing the dress and Obama on the right  (for once) being Presidential
Lo! and behold it fit!  Almost perfectly!  And Mom still had the shoes and jewelry Grandmom had bought to go with it.

A friend put me in touch with a seamstress.  A real, live one.  Maybe it's just me, but I thought seamstresses had gone the way of the milkman.  I felt so old-fashioned taking Redheaded Snippet to her workroom.

I can't be expected to be serious ALL the time!

It took only one week and about $10 for the dress to be fitted to Redheaded Snippet.  I don't think you can find a dress at Goodwill for $10!  And as we already had the shoes and jewelry, that was the total cost for Redheaded Snippet's entire ensemble!

"I have to be home by WHAT time?"

All we needed next was a crinoline. We could only find crinolines for bridal gowns; you know, floor length and super poufy. And we had plenty of those already, leftover from the three sisters' weddings. What we needed was a knee-length, less intense crinoline...

I wish I had photos of the crazy process which followed, but I do not. You see, since we had floor-length, super-pouf crinolines and needed a knee-length, moderate-pouf one, and as no one else is likely to need three full-length, bridal super-pouf crinolines again any time soon, we decided to hack one up. A (literal) crinoline hack.

Mom did the hacking. Redheaded Snippet did the stool-standing. I provided moral support and an extra pair of eyes. It took several days, and cost Mom dozens of tiny cuts in her knees as tulle is surprisingly sharp, but we got that crinoline cut down to size. And for free!

Now you may be wondering about the cost of getting Snippet's hair, nails and makeup done, but we've always done those ourselves so that was a no-brainer. Mom and I are quite a good team when it comes to gussying up, actually. She does the hair and nails and I do the make up.

And because our hairdresser is in the family, we were able to go over to Mom's one night earlier this week for a trial run. She and Redheaded Snippet fussed and fretted, combed, curled, pinned and repinned until they finally got the look they were going for.

We decided to go along with the style of the dress and do a vintage-style hair style and makeup. Redheaded Snippet took some convincing at first, but as Mom and I have never steered her wrong, she decided to trust us.

That meant a roll in the front of her hair, subtle eyes with long lashes and red lips and nails. And in the end, she was glad we talked her into it. When her date and his father, who both have an affinity for 1940's styles (which, I admit, was what kind of gave me the idea to use the dress in the first place) arrived for photos later, they were very complimentary about her attention to detail.

Yesssss! Score one for Mom and Gram! We know what we're doing!

And as for the date...the date is not the boyfriend, in case you're interested. He and Redheaded Snippet would very much like for him to be the boyfriend, but we have decided we are not entertaining the notion of her having one until she is at least 16.

And we will revisit the question when that happens. She is simply not mature enough to handle it. And that is that.

But a date for a fancy dance is quite another thing. Snippet has been friends with this young man for several months and he seems like a nice, respectful, mature and responsible youth from a very nice and loving family.

Of course, as far as The Viking is concerned he is a cad and a scoundrel, but that will be his opinion of every young man who talks to or even looks at Snippet until she is safely and securely married. And I think that's probably as it should be.

And so, off to the dance they went!  Here they are all ready to go paint the town red.  That fur stole (also Grandmom's) was the perfect finishing touch!  His fedora wasn't too shabby either, though I don't seem to have a good photo of it...

And the shoes, of course.  Have to show the shoes.  I think Redheaded Snippet felt rather like Cinderella in those shoes.

Well, since I first started this post, Redheaded Snippet has come home, taken the pins out of her hair,  scrubbed her face and changed into comfy pajamas.  The spell has worn off and the enchanted coach has turned back into a pumpkin.  But she had a smashingly grand time!

Not too bad, for a use-what-you-have hack, eh?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Psalm 139: 16

‎"Your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be."

11 years ago today, our second son was born during my 21st week of pregnancy and died after only a few hours.

He was perfectly formed. His little heart beat bravely for almost two hours despite the fact that he couldn't draw a breath. He looked exactly like The Viking. He was precious beyond words. We named him, buried him and mourned him.

And babies his ages and older are savagely torn limb from limb and discarded as medical waste each and every day in this country in the name of "rights". As if the only difference between a "baby" and "a product of conception" is its desirability.

God have mercy on our nation.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Must fly, no time to talk!

But I must say this:


And now that he is ten-10-see? I have to use two digits, to different keys on the keyboard to type his age-I fear I can no longer call him Man-Cub. He's a Tween now, apparently. And I, for one, have very little clue what tween boys are supposed to be like. Or what they really are like in today's society. I only know what tween girls are like these days and that does not bode well for the prospects of Tween Boyhood. Will I want to just lock him up until he's fourteen like I did Redheaded Snippet? Like I wanted to lock up Redheaded Snippet, not like I actually did it. There has been no locking up of anyone (YET), just so we are clear. Don't bother me with the intricacies of grammar. I've been trying to teach understood subject nouns and possessive personal nouns and pronouns to Man-Cub and I just can't take anymore.

Anyway, I also cannot be bothered to think of another blog name for him just yet. I like the one he has. And I'm already trying to think of one for Lobelia's dainty fairy lass so I think I'd better just leave it at that lest I lose the final remnant of my brain that somehow survived our unit on prepositional phrases.

So, Happy Birthday, my (still) sweet miracle boy! You may be changing in weird and wonderful ways, but I still love you as fiercely as the day you were born!